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Novice's first observations.

andy jack

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Purchased my first Telescope, a Skywatcher 150P just shy of a week ago. It has been cloudy here ever since. I am told the cloud comes free with every new scope. A couple of days back I did manage a few minutes watching Jupiter, but it was a real rush job. No time to polar align, just let the scope cool while having my tea and then just point and twiddle for a few minutes until the cloud rolled back in.

I was having a bath as darkness fell last night so I had no idea of the conditions. To be honest when I looked round the curtains, hair still wet, I was expecting to see the sky full of clouds. Imagine my surprise and delight to see the stars twinkling back at me. It was this noobies first chance to observe.

Due to my location and small garden I can only view towards the North and East. Polaris is located just above and slightly right of my neighbours Sky dish. I do not have a Polar scope so I roughly lined up by eye through the mount. I must have got lucky because this proved to be quite accurate and more than satisfactory for just viewing. In fact once I had an object centred I could track it with just the RA axis not even a tweak of the DEC required.

I started off with trying to have another look at Jupiter. I say trying because it was immediately obvious that my finder scope had drifted off. Jupiter is a big bright target though, so I actually used it to re-centre my finder. Spent a long time observing Jupiter, trying out the eye pieces that came with the 150, settling on my maximum magnification of the 10mm and the 2xBarlow. Once I had found the sweet spot the view was really quite good with a fair bit of detail. Having to only use one axis to track made things really easy, so suddenly the EQ mount started made sense. Jupiter eventually disappeared behind my neighbour’s house so it was time for a new target.

Currently I only have stellarium to guide me, so after a quick look at what was in view I decided that it would be nice to see my first nebula. Specifically M31, Great Nebula in Andromeda. It was at this point that things stared to go wrong. I was really struggling with my finder scope. With the naked eye I see the star I want to find but when I look through the scope I see dozens, it’s a case of not being able to see the wood for the trees. After much frustrating searching and fighting with a mount that moves anyway but the way you want it I gave up. Actually that not strictly true! What I did was pointed my scope in the general direction and just went looking around with my 20mm. suddenly, and by total fluke there it was a little grey cigar shaped cloudy smudge. Again I decided to try all combinations of my limited eye pieces first having a look with my 10 mm but before I had chance to go any further it was obliterated by the vapour trail of a plane. After the vapour trail cleared I was unable to repeat the fluke of finding it so I needed a new target.

For my next target I decided to try and see the nebula next to the bottom star (Alnitac) of orions belt. I don’t know the name of this nebula, stellarium just refers to it as NGC 2024. This time I had much better luck with my finder scope and found Alnitac without any real problem. Can not say the same of the nebula. Despite spending a lot of time in the right location I could not make anything out. There was one point where I thought I detected the faintest of smudges but it could have been my eyes playing tricks on me.

By now it was getting very late so I decided on one last target, before I called it a night. M43 looked favourite. Well I was in the neighbourhood; it would be rude not to pay a visit! Found it no problem at all. Must be getting a little more used to my finder scope and mount. I certainly saved the best till the last. Totally awesome, only shades of grey, but its shape was quite clear. I even decided to stay out an extra hour so that I could view it a little higher in the sky.

Getting a bit more confident at finding things I could not resist a little peek at Mars before calling it a night.

To say I am pleased would be an understatement. First night properly using my new telescope (any telescope) and I have seen Jupiter, M31, M43, Mars and perhaps a hint of NGC 2024? Conditions were awful as well, with that big bright moon. I simply can’t wait to see the sky from a dark site with no moon. Looks like I may be hooked already. :D

Sorry if that is all a bit, long winded, old hat, all been said before but I simply had to tell somebody. :D

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Great report - thanks for sharing. I am jealous of the clear sky you had - no sign of that here, more's the pity.

Isn't it just the most amazing feeling when you look for an object with your scope and then - bingo - there it is in the EP. Awesome...


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That's the kind of first night that is going to get anyone hooked! Sounds like you stayed up quite late too - something I haven't perfected yet. When it gets to weekend I find I could sleep the whole 48 hours.

Good to hear you are using the EQ mount properly too. Well done. Something I still haven't got around to! I am starting to think I am a dob user trapped in the body of an EQ owner :D

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Well done Andy, I enjoyed that, it's always great to feel the excitement coming through these first light reports, and you acheived a lot with a non goto scope.

A few more clear nights and, at this rate, the novice tag will slip away. :D

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Long winded and old hat? NEVER ! (yes I shouted :))...It was a really great read !:D I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and your excitement really comes accross ! ....sounds like you had a great night...I know what you mean about not seeing the wood for the trees sometimes! when this happens I just go a wandering :D I,ve discovered loads of great stuff this way ( well discoveries to me anyways. I know It's all been discovered already but I love that about astronomy.... you feel like an explorer :))

regards craig

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Thanks for all your kind words.

I paid the price today, not only was I totally shattered but my thighs are really stiff and sore. It’s all that crouching down, peeking and twiddling that did it. :D

Re-read my report tonight, and it’s a grammatical nightmare. Some of it does not even make sense. Written English is not one of my strong points at the best of times, so obviously writing while tired is not the smartest move. That said, if I would have waited the result would have probably been more sanitised and a lot less spontaneous.

It is doubtful that future observations from home will be quite so epic. My view is limited and light pollution is an issue. That said I fully intend to regularly visit a reasonably dark site which has a much larger view. In fact weather permitting I fully intend spending a night there this coming weekend.

Thanks for the suggestion Talitha. That is something I really need. Stellarium is not an option for me out in the field.

Thanks again for all your kind words of encouragement and for making me feel so welcome. :D

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